Central Europe: Poland - Auschwitz-Birkenau

By Cubie - January 17, 2015

"Arbeit macht frei"
"Arbeit macht frei" translated as "Work brings freedom" or "Work will set you free". Seeing the photo above, or the phrase, you probably know where this photo was taken. Yes, in Oswiecim (read as ohsh-VEENCH-im) or its German equivalent, Auschwitz.

I have issue writing this post because it was the biggest and most notorious concentration camp in the Nazi system. It is now the most poignant memory to the victims of the Holocaust. I won't go into how the place is, there's a lot of reading material that you could look up to. I don't regret visiting it but I don't have any other plans to visit another concentration camp.

People ask, why visit Auschwitz, especially when you are on a holidays? Rick Steve addressed the question in his Eastern Europe guide book.

K and I travelled to Oswiecim by bus with an Irish teacher whom we met in the hostel. We visited during peak period so for crowd control purposes, we were divided into groups. Each group was led by a tour guide. Prior to the actual tour, we watched a film. During the actual tour, the tour guide spoke through a microphone and we could hear via the audio provided.
(Auschwitz Museum Tour 35zł + audio guide 5zł)

Once we finished the tour in Auschwitz I, we had a little break and took a shuttle bus (complimentary) with the tour guide to Auschwitz II - Birkenau (pronounced as BEER-keh-now).

Gate and unloading platform, Birkenau extermination camp
This was where one was determined by "Death to the left, life to the right". We continued the tour with the guide in Birkenau. There is no public transportation back to Krakow from Birkenau. After the tour, one could stay on to walk by yourself but to get back to Krakow, we took the shuttle bus back to Auschwitz I.

Before departing for Krakow, we bought a couple of books from the book shop in Auschwitz I including Night by Elie Wiesel as recommended by our guide.
(Return bus tickets to Oswiecim 28zł)

Side note: Now let's have a chocolate or two for happier thoughts...

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